Kirsten Johnson

Director/ Cinematographer ("Camera Person")

Kirsten Johnson, Director/ Cinematographer ("Camera Person")

Kirsten Johnson has worked as both documentary cinematographer and director committing herself to human rights issues and visual creativity. She is the principal cinematographer on over 40 feature-length documentaries and has been credited on countless others. After graduating from Brown University in 1987 with a BA in Fine Arts and Literature she travelled to Senegal to study with acclaimed filmmakers Djibril Diop Mambety and Ousmane Sembene. The experience inspired her to apply to the French National Film School (La Femis), where she began to study cinematography. While in La Femis she began to shoot the documentary Derrida, with directors Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick the earliest of Johnson’s work to appear in Cameraperson. After graduating from La Femis she went on to shoot a number of highly-acclaimed and award-winning documentaries including “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” “Fahrenheit 9/11” “This Film is Not Yet Rated” and “The Invisible War.” She has a longstanding collaboration with Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras, credited as cinematographer for “The Oath,” “Citizenfour,” the upcoming ""Asylum."" Additionally, she shot footage that appeared in Poitras' visual exhibition on surveillance, which opened at the Whitney Museum in spring 2016. In 2009 Johnson embarked on a directorial project documenting the lives of two teenagers in Afghanistan, the film was to be called “A Blind Eye.” After 3 years of shooting and cutting one of the teenagers retracted her permission to be featured and the film’s scope was reconsidered and structured around the footage that was shot, as well as footage from over 30 films Johnson had worked on over the years. Eventually this was edited into the film that became ""Cameraperson."" When not shooting she teaches the class in “Visual Thinking” at the NYU Graduate Journalism Department, a course in cinematography at SVA, and often leads workshops for young camerapeople and documentarians under the auspices of the Arab Art and Culture Fund in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.

Faculty News view all

SocDoc at DOC NYC 2020
October 16, 2020

SocDoc at DOC NYC 2020

SocDoc has a strong showing with several films from our clever faculty and alumni, as well as our annual student showcase. Read More
Alumni New Films News Round-Up
October 15, 2020

Alumni New Films News Round-Up

A lot of our smart & talented alumni are out in the world with their films at pitch markets, festivals, and streaming - take a look! Read More

SocDoc at SXSW Festival 2020
February 13, 2020

SocDoc at SXSW Festival 2020

    Winter is nearly behind us which means its time to kick off the 2020 festival season!  SocDoc has a strong showing at South By Southwest this year. So if you're in Austin in March, check out these alumni-directed films Read More
Camera, Sound & Budgeting Winter Weekend Workshops
January 15, 2020

Camera, Sound & Budgeting Winter Weekend Workshops

Interested in improving your documentary skills? Here are five workshops which can give you a whole range of skills to explore the wonderland of documentary. Whatever your professional background, these small classes will provide targeted and hands-o Read More